Taking Care Of The Spirit In Busy Ministers -- By: William P. Clemmons

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 07:2 (Spring 1990)
Article: Taking Care Of The Spirit In Busy Ministers
Author: William P. Clemmons

Taking Care Of The Spirit In Busy Ministers

William Clemmons

Professor of Christian Education
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, North Carolina

Tom MacGreggor had always tried to be honest with himself; the crisis in his identity drove him to seek counsel from his trusted friend, Jesse Van Meeter. He sat in the old minister’s study. The room was dim; books were spread across the desk; a worktable in the corner was stacked with papers, correspondence, and a “must” list of reading material. Yet there was a reassuring air of confidence in the room.

Tom began with his most pressing question. “What happens to a minister when the sense of call grows dull?”

Jesse leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes, and thought for a long time. When he spoke, his words struck fear in Tom’s troubled soul.

“When you lose the sense of call,” he said, “you become a religious functionary without spiritual depth. In this blind state you carry out the functions of your role without a sense of the holy.”

Expanding his answer, he drew word pictures of different identities of the minister who has become estranged from his transcendent call. “Without a sense of call, the minister becomes an administrator of a branch office of the institution… or a public relations director for a religious corporation.., or a psychologist with a neutral morality assisting persons in their personal and social adjustment.., or an ethicist who aims to restructure society in harmony with an idealization of the kingdom of God... or a philosopher of religion who dispassionately examines ideas about God and the world.., or a church employee who seeks to make a contribution to the world while having a ‘successful’ career.., or an ecclesiastical politican who seeks to direct the denominational powers but is often distracted by the operations of the bureaucratic machine.

“When the minister falls prey to one or more of the bastardized roles, about all that is left is retirement. Unable to change vocations, the minister waits for the day of release.”1

Ben Campbell Johnson has identified the basis for the renewal of one’s sense of the call of God to be found in the need of a minister for spiritual growth. He cites Karl Barth who said that one’s “personal calling as such stands in need of constant repetition and renewal, and therefore never stands so fully behind [the person] that it is not also before..”2 Johnson then continues the story of the young minister:

As Tom prepared to leave his friend’s study, the sen...

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